You can count me in as one of those who thought that the lockout really might be close to ending. It was just over a week ago when my hope was at it highest, when the two sides were closer to a deal then they had been all summer. That's when news come out that Billy Hunter, the guy representing the players of the NBA, got up and walked out of the room after the owners returned with their latest offer.
Considering the negotiations had been going on for days, and that each side was giving a little bit in attempts to meet in the middle, I find it more then a little upsetting that Hunter did that. However, the two sides got back to work on Saturday, trying to salvage what's left of an already shortened 2011-12 NBA season.
As it stands, the main issue seems to be how the basketball-related income is split between the players and owners. Under the old agreement the players were getting 57%. The owners have made it pretty clear that they want that number to go down significantly, saying that the new CBA must have the revenue being split 50-50.
The difference between 57% and 50% is approximately $280 million. The last I heard was that the players latest proposal had them down to 52.5%, giving them about $180 million less then they were getting in the old CBA. Yes, that seems like the players have given up a lot already, but the owners have been losing a lot of money and for them feel comfortable with a new deal they ‘need' the split to be 50-50. That leaves them about $100 million apart, which is about how much that last 2.5% is worth.
One report, according to the associated press, says that some owners are ok with a 53-47 split as long as it comes with a hard salary cap. Unfortunately not all the owners feel that way, with the rest of the group saying they will go no further beyond an even 50-50 split.
The salary cap system is another issue that is keeping a deal from being done, though it isn't as big of a deal as is the basketball-related income split.
The two sides' Saturday meeting went deep into the night, lasting over 8 hours and ending early Sunday morning with some interesting news. NBA commissioner David Stern said after the meetings that the league owners were prepared to offer a deal that gave the players a 51% split of the BRI (basketball-related income). This comes after the latest proposal from the players was with a 52.5-47.5 split, and the owners saying that they could go no farther then an even 50-50.
Stern went on to say that if the players did not accept this latest deal by the close of business on Wednesday, the league and owners would then change their offer and drop the revenue split down to just 47% and add a flexible salary cap. Obviously that is a deal that would get instantly rejected by the players, putting the entire season in jeopardy.
"We hope that this juxtaposition will cause the union to assess its position and accept the deal. I think it's fair to say that speaking on behalf of the union, Mr. Kessler rejected the mediators' recommendations and our proposal. But hope springs eternal, and we would love to see the union accept the proposal that is now on the table. We want to allow enough time for the union to consider our most recent proposal, and we are hopeful that they accept it."
Stern denied the idea that this was an ultimatum, though its pretty obvious what the ‘writing on the wall' is. If the players reject this proposal then the league is only going to make them an offer that everybody knows will also get rejected, at which time the season will be all but lost considering that the two sides will be taking steps backwards as opposed to right now, when they seem to be slowly moving closer to a deal (we hope).
Following his ultimatum denial, Stern was asked what he thinks the chances are that the players would take this deal.
"I'm not going to make percentage guesses or anything like that. We want our players to play. We'd like to have a season. These are the terms upon which we're prepared to gear up and get in as many games as possible."
Will 51% be enough for the players to take? The last CBA had them getting 57% of the basketball-related income. They have since gone as far as to drop their percentage to 52.5%, a difference worth around $180 million. The owners' proposal of 51% would mean that the players give up another $60 million, on top of the $180.
As long as these lockout negotiations have been going on, the two sides haven't been as close to a deal as they seem to be right now. However, it's at this point you have to wonder how much ‘ego' will play a part, or if the players will swallow some pride and accept this latest offer and allow the season to finally begin.
The players have already offered to give up a lot though. Yes, we know that the owners have been losing a lot of money and need to feel comfortable that when the NBA resumes playing games that they will not resume losing money. It's at this point where we don't know which side is being more ‘fair', because both sides have pleaded their case to the media.
We, the fans, just have to hope that rational thought and mature decision making proves to be triumphant and that this latest proposal is one that both sides can live with. After hearing the owners say several times that they could go no farther then a 50-50 split of the BRI, maybe this offer of 51-49 will be good enough for the players. Hey, after all...what's another $60 million between friends?